WATSONVILLE—On Saturday the Watsonville Buddhist Temple will host a special benefit concert featuring Otonowa, a jazz-fusion ensemble led by world-renowned percussionist Akira Tana.
In 2012 Otonowa, which translates to “sound circle,” began playing shows to raise money for survivors of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Tōhoku, Japan. The group brought their music to those communities, and to this day go back there to hold workshops for young Japanese musicians.
Otonowa’s first Watsonville show in 2018 raised money for those survivors. Pianist Art Hirahara’s aunt, who has ties to Watsonville, approached Rev. Jay Shinseki about bringing the concert to the temple.
This time, however, Otonowa will be raising money for the temple itself, as well as the City of Watsonville’s Kawakami Sister City Program, which is entering its 32nd year.
“They actually approached me, wanting to come back,” said Shinseki. “They wanted to do something for the temple… and we thought it’d be nice to also partner with the Sister City group and help them out.”
Otonowa is known for its culture-bending music—traditional jazz with a distinctly Asian sound. The group routinely incorporates Japanse instruments such as the koto to their songs.
“It’s perhaps the only time recently we’ve brought this kind of Asian music into Watsonville,” Shinseki said. “It is uniquely Japanese-American. Watsonville itself is a blend of cultures and peoples… This sort of event really shows that.”
Tana, a graduate of Harvard University and the New England Conservatory of music, has played with everyone from Sonny Rollins to James Moody. He will perform alongside Hirahara, Masaru Koga on woodwinds, Noriyuki Okada on bass, and guest vocalist Saki Kono for the Watsonville concert.
“This is a great opportunity for people to come hear some amazing music, while also supporting their community,” Shinseki said.
Otonowa will perform at the Watsonville Buddhist Temple, 423 Bridge St. on Saturday from 3-6 p.m. Tickets are $30 at the door. For information visit wbtemple.org or the temple’s Facebook page.